Saturday, October 14, 2023
Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, issued a warning to Israel, urging it to cease its attacks on Gaza, emphasising that the ongoing war could expand to other parts of the Middle East if Hezbollah becomes involved, and such an escalation would result in "a huge earthquake" for Israel.
Amirabdollahian stated that Lebanon's Hezbollah group has considered all scenarios of a potential conflict, and Israel should immediately halt its attacks on Gaza.
Israel views Hezbollah as its most immediate and serious threat, estimating the group possesses around 150,000 rockets and missiles, including precision-guided projectiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel. Hezbollah has thousands of battle-hardened fighters with experience from Syria's 12-year conflict, as well as various types of military drones.
Following last Saturday's attack by the Palestinian group Hamas, where hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed, Hezbollah fighters have been on high alert along Lebanon's borders with Israel.
On Saturday, the Israeli military reported that an Israeli drone strike along the Lebanon border eliminated a "cell" attempting to infiltrate Israel. Hezbollah claimed its fighters had launched multiple rockets at four Israeli positions along the border the day before. On Saturday afternoon, Hezbollah fighters fired a barrage of rockets and shells at Israeli positions in the disputed Chebaa Farms region, prompting Israeli troops to return fire in southern Lebanon.
Amirabdollahian held discussions in Beirut on the Gaza situation and the broader region with Saleh Arouri, a senior Hamas official in exile, and Ziad Nakhaleh, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, according to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.
Hamas officials have repeatedly asserted that last Saturday's attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,300 civilians and troops, was the work of the Palestinian group, and Iran was not involved. Hamas officials did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for confirmation and details regarding the meeting.
Amirabdollahian concluded his visit to the region, which included stops in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where Tehran wields significant influence.
He mentioned that he met with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who briefed him on the group's status in Lebanon. Amirabdollahian commented on the scenarios Hezbollah has prepared, warning that any action by the resistance group would have a significant impact on Israel.
He also issued a warning to war criminals and those supporting Israel to halt the crimes against Gaza's civilians before it becomes too late, adding, "It might be too late in a few hours."
With concerns about Hezbollah's potential involvement, US President Joe Biden has cautioned other Middle East actors against joining the conflict. The US has deployed warships to the region and pledged full support for Israel.
Amirabdollahian announced his intention to contact UN officials in the Middle East, expressing hope that there is still an opportunity to work on an initiative to end the war before it's too late.
The possibility of a new front in Lebanon harkens back to the bitter memories of the month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, which concluded in a stalemate and a tense detente between the two sides.